Are Your Values Valuable ?

 By Sam Jarman –

Often when we are approached by a sports organisation, school or business, there are references to the ‘values’ that the organisation might want to see or wish to engender in their people.

These ‘values’ are sometimes spoken about with some frustration by coaches or leaders, especially if they don’t feel that others are living up to or abiding by them.

Occasionally, the reason we have been invited in is to find out why and to change people’s behaviour.

Unfortunately, that’s not something we can help with.

What Is A Value

There seems to be confusion about what a value is, and there is definitely a misunderstanding about where they come from and how teams and organisations can base their culture around them.

Perhaps this is to do with the number of different ways the word can be used in the English language. My dictionary lists 18 different definitions.

The one which seems most relevant for this discussion would seem to be:

Important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad, and what is desirable and undesirable.

Which seems simple enough, but to my mind leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding and confusion.

Firstly, it might be helpful to see a value as different from a belief or an ideal. Beliefs and ideals are products of the intellect. Unlike values, they point to the personal rather than the universal. They might be relevant for one individual, but not for another.

Now it’s fine to have beliefs and ideals, and even to make them important parts of your organisational strategy or plan, but values come before beliefs. They represent the place where beliefs and ideals originate.


Values Are Universal

There are aspects of the human experience which are common to everyone. They are all pointing to and originating from the same place. We might not understand this at an intellectual level, but we instinctively know and recognise the feelings when we are acting from that knowing.

We might describe this place as our true nature, consciousness or being.

This is who are who we are at the most fundamental level – prior to personal thought, ideas, theories or concepts.
The knowing of true nature is experienced as feelings of happiness, love, oneness, connection, peace or well-being. These are all words to describe the same intuition.

If you ask someone what they want most from life, they would probably say one or more of these words. Therefore, we could say that that the purpose of life, what most people wish for, is to experience these feelings more, and the absence of these feelings, often known as suffering, less.

These might be described as universal human values, because they are most valuable.


Values Are Primary

If this is so, would it not make sense to have the beliefs and ideals of an organisation, as the dictionary definition states, pointing to the experience which every human being cherishes most highly of all?

A value is primary. It needs to be realised and understood first.

From our values we derive our principles or beliefs, how we want to live our life or play the game.

From our principles, our habits, policies or behaviours will flow.

Beliefs, habits, policies and behaviours will change over time, and differ from person to person. Values derive from something permanent, unchanging, constant.

Where people and organisations run into problems, is when they take a behaviour that they want to see and attempt to make it into a value or a principle. This is putting the cart before the horse.


Behaviours Are Not Values

For example, I often see ‘hard work’ described as a value. Hard work is not primary. Giving your best effort is a symptom of love for what you are doing.

Love is the value, which points us back to true nature.

Teamwork is not a value. Teamwork is a symptom of connection with the group and a shared goal.
Connection is the value, which points us back to true nature.

Respect is not a value. Respect comes from the realisation there is no separation from the other person or team, a recognition of them having the same source as you.
Oneness is the value, which points us back to true nature.

Discipline is not a value. Discipline is a symptom of knowing an outcome cannot enhance or diminish who you really are.
Well-being is the value, which points to true nature.

The best way of encouraging an authentic, inspiring culture to develop within your organisation, is to ground it in the universal values which every human being knows as the feelings described above.


Principles Derive From Values

Once you have understood them and where they come from, if they wish to do so, it is easier for the group to develop some principles to define the direction you wish to travel. From these principles, appropriate behaviours and policies will effortlessly evolve.

There will be no need to enforce them, or remind people or to have rules and regulations in place. There will be no need to motivate or invoke willpower to get things done. You have already grounded your culture in what everyone naturally wants anyway, so progress is effortless. Values police themselves.

The problem with the ‘values’ in most organisations is that they aren’t values at all. They’re rules, or expectations. 

Who likes being told what to do or how to behave? Who enjoys having the weight of expectations on their shoulders?


How Do We Want This to Feel?

When you confuse values for behaviour, you run into trouble. There will be inconsistency and confusion. For example, if you run a business, you might want your design department to ‘value’ creativity.
The accounts department, not so much.

If you are a rugby team, you might ‘value’ structure and organisation in defence, but want the same players to have freedom in attack.

Values are universal. No one can disagree with them. They can misunderstand where they come from, or forget they are innate, but it’s hard to argue that love, happiness, enjoyment and well-being are not important. If you have values which aren’t resonating, or a being resisted, it’s because they are beliefs, or behaviours, not values.

True values are expressed in the qualities of resilience, resourcefulness, enthusiasm, integrity and insight which will serve us in all situations. If as coaches and leaders we help people to see that this potential is available to them all the time, rather than binding them with rules and expectations, we will be regularly surprised with the solutions and performances they come up with.

We can relax, and in doing so allow them to do the same.

So, when it comes to defining your values, rather that thinking about what you want to see, ask yourself, and those who will be joining you in the endeavour,

‘How do we want this to feel?’

‘Regardless of the outcome, what would make this experience worthwhile?’

In so doing, you are much more likely to find the love, connection and enjoyment which will sustain you on the journey, regardless of the twists and turns which will inevitably ensue.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, or anything else on the site, please use the form below to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

Get In Touch

13 + 5 =

sam (at)

tel: +44 (0)7976 401 545